About those Solyndra subpoenas…

As you’ve probably heard, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have subpoenaed the White House, seeking communications related to the Solyndra loan. The White House now has until Nov. 10 to provide the committee with a timeline for producing the documents.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee and the Republicans’ point-man on the manufactured pseudo-controversy, said it’s “unfortunate” that the subpoenas has to be sent.

To believe Stearns, one would have to ignore reality altogether. Dave Roberts’ take on this today was spot-on.

For two months, Republicans have been searching for some evidence that political favoritism played a role in the Obama administration’s loan guarantee to Solyndra. They have failed. After a half-dozen hearings, testimony from virtually everyone involved, and the release of thousands of pages of emails and documents, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing. None.

In the course of this fruitless investigation, the White House has turned over 80,000 pages of documents related to the Solyndra loans. It turned over 15,000 more just on Wednesday. But Republicans on the Energy Committee Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee have issued impossibly sweeping demands, requesting three years’ worth of private communications among the president’s top advisers, even the president’s own BlackBerry messages. (Rep. Jan Schakowsky [D-Ill.] compared Republicans obsessed with Solyndra to birthers, which seems more and more apt.)

The White House has been in talks with subcommittee Republicans, trying to at least narrow the request down to material relevant to the subject (hazy as it is) of the investigation. But the GOP is determined to force a public showdown, so they’ve voted to issue a subpoena that “asks for just about damn near anything,” as Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) puts it.

The point of the GOP’s tactics, of course, is to make increasingly ridiculous demands, in the hopes that the White House will invoke executive privilege. At that point, the right will collectively scream, “See! They’re hiding things! We knew it!” and the media will be expected to play along.

I can only imagine what the political conditions would be like if congressional Republicans put this much effort into job creation.

For what it’s worth, recent history seems relevant, at least as far as precedent is concerned. As Roberts explained in his piece, in June 2008, Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee sent the Bush White House one narrow, targeted subpoena — and Bushies immediately shut down the inquiry by invoking executive privilege.

At the time, GOP lawmakers were fine with that. One assumes they’d have a different reaction now.

If news organizations covering this make it seem as if the House GOP is launching a legitimate inquiry, seeking pertinent questions and resisting the urge to go on a pointless fishing expedition, they’re misleading the public in a fairly dramatic way.